Mizgan Ahmed on 13th January, 2016
Newcastle United twice came from behind to secure a vital point against a lop-sided Manchester United in a frantic night at the Sports Direct Arena.
Rooney scored two and assisted one but was not enough to secure victory for his team.
Louis Van Gaal opted to field quite an attacking-natured side with Fellaini and Schneiderlin (both men who love to move forward with the ball) in the holding midfield role; Martial, Lingard and Herrera were playing behind the striker Rooney. It was a 4-2-3-1 but with Fellaini moving forward to become an aerial presence in and around the opposition penalty area, it was more or less a 4-1-4-1.
We’ll first take a look at movements of Rooney who by far was United’s most influential player yesterday. He was directly or indirectly involved in all the goals scored by United and his movements led to those contributions. When United were defending, Martial and Lingard were back helping out their fullbacks which left a gap in wide attacking areas and when United had to break away, Rooney picked up one of those wide position which enables likes of Herrera, Fellaini and opposite flank forward player to move in a narrow shape and trouble the Newcastle back-line.
Now let’s quickly observe at the movements of Schneiderlin and Fellaini who were given the responsibility as the two holding midfield players and control the tempo of the game from there. The big Belgian was more of a forward thinking player who moved forward and be a presence whereas Schneiderlin was holding himself back and control the tempo from there. The problem with Fellaini in that holding role is that he rarely tracks back when United get caught on possession higher up the pitch, this problem was elevated when Wijnaldum made runs from midfield and nobody picked him up, the first Newcastle goal also came from that unmarked run by the Dutchman, he was supposed to be marked by Schneiderlin but lack of support for the Frenchman made him to pick up the wrong man and freed the Dutch Wijnaldum.
The back four had a torrid game especially the fullbacks, Young and Darmian were collectively having a sloppy game which enabled both Janmaat and Dummet to move forward for Newcastle without much worry, Darmian in particular had an average game and his ball-watch defending is putting him in trouble more often than not. Young looked good going forward but his defensive side of the game is much to be talked about.
Overall, one should say Van Gaal went for a more attacking side maybe because of recent criticism of his team being ‘boring’, but that expansive game had a side-effect that it needs a good back-line which remains solid and United’s back-line had a terrible game which enabled Newcastle to move forward with ease from defense to attack. The absence of a midfield covering was also a cause of concern for LvG and he needs to make sure that balance is conquered between expansive play and solidity at the back.
It was an entertaining game at the end of it as far as neutral perspective is concerned, but United’s sloppiness in defense was a big talking point as they allowed Newcastle to come back from behind on two occasions. Van Gaal’s time is fast running out at Old Trafford and he must solve his side’s lop-sided nature of play otherwise Ed Woodward and co should find another solution to correct this problem.